Pioneertown: The Town Built by Celluloid Cowboys

During our stay at Hicksville we visited a place that could only exist in California, Pioneertown.

I had visited in Pioneertown back in March (though did not blog about it) with my dad, who grew up with heavy doses of the western TV shows in the 50s, which is all how Pioneertown began. Western stars Roy Rogers and Gene Autry broke ground in 1947 to build a permanent live-in 1880s era western town. A place for not just filming, but places for stars and crew to stay in, and for some to actually live, for this place includes not just facades, but real homes as well.

Today, Pioneertown is still indeed a real town, with residents, including Bill and JoAnne, who breed and own Pygora goats (often mistaken for sheep – seriously, so many people were saying “Look! Sheep!” when we there there), and use their goats for their fiber and milk. JoAnn sat on the porch of a small shop along Mane Street (get it?) spinning, her and her husband’s goats outside in a small pen. Inside the shop there was a variety of items made from the goats, including hand spun and woven socks, scarves, as well as soap made from the goats’ milk.

There is a real post office, which is said to be the “most photographed post office in the entire United States” due to the amount of TV shows and movies that filmed here. Roy Rogers loved bowling so much he actually had a bowling alley added to the town, which sits shuttered, but features amazing murals. There is also a shuttered saloon, the Red Dog.

2020 UPDATE: Both the Pioneertown Bowl and the Red Dog Saloon have reopened! Check out our visit to the Red Dog here.

The most popular joint in Pioneertown has to be Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, a true honky-tonk if there ever was one, complete with real cowboys and bikers as patrons, and a small stage for performers. It’s also one of the best places to get some grub in the Joshua Tree and Yucca Valley area. In addition to the strange old sets, small shops and Pappy and Harriet’s there is a motel on site, that I would love to stay at! UPDATE: We did stay there!

If you love bizarre, off-beat tourist destinations, or the west, and find yourself even as close as Palm Springs (roughly a 40 minute drive), I suggest a visiting Pioneertown.

Tee: The Jackalope, Austin, Tex.
Jeans: Freddies of Pinewood
Mocs: Minnetonka
Fringe Leather Jacket: I don’t remember!

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